Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday pledged to launch a special investigation to ascertain the truth behind allegations that secret detention centres exist where disappeared people are said to be held. Addressing a gathering in the eastern Sampur region, Sirisena said, “I will appoint a special committee to reveal details of any secret detention centres that may exist as alleged”. He said the committee would also look at the recommendations made by previous government appointed probe panels on the large scale disappearances in the island.
Several such probes have taken place appointed by successive governments since the 1980s. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said last year that more than 16,000 people have disappeared since the 80s.
The most recent government-appointed panel the Paranagama Commission in 2013 said nearly 19,000 people have disappeared among whom are 5000 government troops who had battled the 30 year separatist war.
Sri Lanka came under increased international focus on disappearances of individuals by the government troops, the Tamil Tiger rebels who ran an armed separatist campaign and paramilitary groups. The UN Human Rights Council resolutions called for probes on disappearances.
The government has set up an office for missing persons (OMP) but awaits further legislation to make it operational. Sirisena said he had instructed the Cabinet to make the necessary laws to make the OMP meaningful.
Sirisena said a campaign is being carried out in the media about the alleged disappearances of some school children who had posed for a photograph with him in Jaffna in 2015. “This is a big political conspiracy. I will make sure that all such cases are investigated”.